By Melanie Farrell
Before walking through the door of Nourish’d in Observatory, Cape Town, I take a moment to appreciate the cascading plant life hanging from the ceiling of the corner store.
This is the second Nourish’d restaurant that green-fingered Natasha Napoli has opened, with the first in a converted garage in Kloof Street.
Natasha describes herself as “a crazy urban hippie … trying to save this beautiful blue-green earth, one bamboo straw and salad bowl at a time”.
“In my early 20s I was working on super-yachts but I had an ‘aha’ moment on board a yacht one day when I was asked to chop up 40 orchids because the owner of the yacht didn’t like the colour.
“I’d been on yachts for four years and I decided it was time to head for shore.”
Natasha “ran away” to an eco-village in Costa Rica where she lived on a permaculture farm and trained to be a yoga teacher.
Back in Cape Town, she persuaded her father – the owner of long-established Bacini’s Italian restaurant on Kloof Street – to let her open a juice bar in the garage, and the Nourish’d brand was born.
The cafe was soon churning out vegan and vegetarian food and drinks for health-conscious travellers from around the world who shared Natasha’s photogenic smoothies and breakfast bowls on social media. @nourishdcapetown has 15,300 followers thanks to professional ’grammers.
Frustrated by the lack of space in Kloof Street, in late 2018 Natasha opened the second branch of Nourish’d in Lower Main Road, Obs. (The sign for the art deco Bijou centre on the opposite corner is a good landmark to look for.)
While the Kloof Street branch serves breakfasts and light meals, the Observatory branch offers these plus heartier dishes such as burgers, wraps and salad bowls.
My sons and I order three different dishes when we settle at a picnic-style table for a late weekday lunch. I can’t quite believe the young men I share a house with are vegans: these are the same people who refused to eat anything green when they were children.
The eldest son’s lentil burger is our favourite. Served with fluffy-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside sweet potato fries, the substantial patty is scrumptious.
Vegan burgers can be disappointing if the patty is too soft but the burger at Nourish’d is just right: the outside gives way with a satisfying crunch and it’s well seasoned, with an earthy flavour from the brown lentils and beetroot.
It’s served with home made vegan cashew nut cream cheese, avocado, caramelised red onions, fresh tomatoes, “krispy” kale and tomato relish, and topped with microgreens.
I feel virtuous as I tuck into my colourful galaxy salad bowl drizzled with delicious ginger miso dressing. It’s bursting with bright goodness in orange, purple and shades of green and dotted with golden nuggets of perfectly fried tofu. There’s also chewy, nutty black rice sprinkled with sunflower seeds.
The youngest son takes on a wrap called “I Falafel in Love with your Wrap”. It is as substantial as the lentil burger and includes “four crispy falafels on a bed of home made beetroot hummus, avocado slices, balsamic slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, spicy Mexican black beans, coconut sautéed kale and crunchy red cabbage”.
We are full of nourishing goodness but sweet things need to be tried so we order a stack of multi-hued hotcakes to share. The four vegan rainbow flapjacks that arrive are drizzled with creamy date caramel, almond butter, coconut yoghurt, cinnamon, berries and chopped nuts. You need to taste the vegan caramel to believe it’s not laden with sugar and fat. In fact, it’s made from dates.
We also order home made kombucha, a cold-pressed juice and a dirty chai made with Nourish’d’s almond “mylk”.
For takeaways we try vegan millionaire’s shortbread and a Snickers bar, which contain more of that delicious date caramel. Made with raw cacao, these treats are not overly sweet and cacao brims with healthy benefits.
Conscious consumption is a big deal among millennials following the global trend of embracing Earth-friendly brands, and Nourish’d is bolstering its credentials in ways that go beyond its food.
Its smoothies arrive in refundable glass jars with glass straws, serviettes are made from recycled paper and takeaways come in compostable containers.
The menu encourages you to “refuse, reduce, re-use and recycle” with recycling being the least preferred option. To encourage a “re-use” mentality, when customers buy juices and smoothies in glass jars they get a R10 discount, or they can opt for a loyalty card.
It’s this kind of innovative thinking that has eco-conscious millennials coming back for more of what Nourish’d has to offer. DM
"But still it moves, just the same" ~ Galileo Galilei (after forcibly having recanted his statement on earth revolving around the sun)